Gufodotto would like you to read these:

Friday, December 15, 2006

An Ancient Computer Surprises Scientists

John Noble Wilford, long-standing science writer for the NY Times, and author of one of my favourite books about dinosaurs, writes about the antikitera mechanism, the most complex greek artifact ever found.

I first heard about it from the pages of Martyn Mistere, an irtalian mistery comic where the namesake is an investigator of strange cases. kind of X-files ante litteram, but with lots of histor thrown in - definitely better.

anyway, back to reality: a 3D X-Ray scan revealed that the "thing" is, in fact a mechanism to predict moon phases accordingly to hypparcos theory, and the same scientist probably had a hand in designing it. well, it sounds way cooler than the mysterian hypothesis where the mechanism was suggested to humans by superior intelligences.

Knowing that 2200 years ago we were able to make something that complex, and then we lost the ability for around one thousand years, gives a certain perspective. particularly, may be computers aren't here to last...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Ti Amo!!!

Just to remind myself that I love this beautiful girl!!!

(I know the picture looks crap but that's my phone's fault)

Something to read over breakfast

a nice website which collect germ tales. Stories cover:

Monkeys invade New Delhi

Ebola Invades Gorillas

Dog Dies of Bird Flu

and so on... enjoy! ;-)

thanks to Janet Grinsburg for this (via Aetiology)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dark Matter Mostly Socks, Keys, Ballpoints

By Ion Zwitter, Avant News Editor
Cambridge, August 12, 2024

A critical goal that has eluded astrophysicists for decades has at last been made possible: the discovery of the nature and composition of "dark matter" as well as a hint as to the function of "dark energy", two previously unidentifiable and unobservable substances that together comprise nearly 95% of all matter in the universe. Thanks to recent advances in technology it has now been definitively proven that dark matter consists mostly of the subatomic remains of "missing ballpoints, socks and keys", according to a cosmologist involved in the discovery, thus effectively solving several great mysteries of the universe in one go.

3rd Iraq Study Group Report Calls for Iterative –Izations

The 3rd Iraq Study Group Report, delivered by its distinguished panel to the president and released to the American public today, calls for "an iterative process of –izing things, with the order of –izations to be varied both stochastically and in accordance with prevailing conditions on the ground."

thanks to AvantNews

Flight of the bumblebee!!!

As per topic: Listen Up

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Famous movies, re-enacted by... Bunnies!!!

here you go!!! I hope you enjoy them!!! many more at

I'm afraid of e-Bay scammers...

I never buy on eBay 'cause I think that it's too easy for scammers to build fake reputations based on faked feedbacks by complacent users. But someone's on the ball, and has been analysing the transaction traffic (I guess with eBay's OK, and direct collaboration). This way, they've discovered that it is possible to track down those users who offer fake feedbacks, since they most often do the same job for a lot of scammers. so, backtracking the feedbacks, and crossing them between scammers, it is possible to take these bastards out of the loops...

It isn't still enough for me to trust eBay over a more traditional Online website such as Amazon, but it's a nice step in the right direction. And one day I'll be confident enough to launch myself in the global market ;-)

of course thanks to the couple at CognitiveDaily for pointing this out.

also, in the same blog:

back to work... Pampa...

reading an interesting book, in preparation for my PAMPA training tomorrow and thursday.

Pampa, in case you don't knwo (I didn't) is a technique used to measure how much and how quickly a compound is able to pass through a cellular membrane.

It doesn't use real cell membranes, though, rather some fatty mix which in the hope of the creators should act very much the same way.

I'm going to learn how to perform the experiments (yahee, gufodotto goes back in the lab!!!), so that in case of need I'll be able to generate my own data in the near future.

anyway, I love when book, to give perspective to the subject, start with an historical excursus: I cut and paste here (I know I am violating the (C) of someone - but I'm sure he won't mind):

The history of the development of the bilayer membrane model is fascinating, and spans at least 300 years, beginning with studies of soap bubbles and oil layers on water.

In 1672 Robert Hooke observed under a microscope the growth of ‘‘black’’ spots on soap bubbles. Three years later Isaac Newton [521], studying the ‘‘images of the Sun very faintly reflected [off the black patched on the surface of soap bubbles],’’ calculated the thickness of the black patches to be equivalent to 95 A °. (Anders Jonas Angstrom, ‘father of spectroscopy,’ who taught at the University of Uppsala, after whom the A° unit is named, did not appear until about 150 years later.)

Ben Franklin, a self-trained scientist of eclectic interests, but better known for his role in American political history, was visiting England in the early 1770s. He published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1774:

At length being at Clapham where there is, on the common, a large pond, which I observed to be one day very rough with the wind, I fetched out a cruet of oil, and dropt a little of it on the water . . . and there the oil, though not more than a tea spoonful, . . . spread amazingly, and extended itself gradually till it reached the lee side, making all that quarter of the pond, perhaps half an acre, as smooth as a looking glass . . . so thin as to produce prismatic colors . . . and beyond them so much thinner as to be invisible.

Franklin mentioned Pliny’s account of fisherman pouring oil on troubled waters in ancient times, a practice that survives to the present. (Franklin’s experiment was reenacted by the author at the pond on Clapham Common with a teaspoon of olive oil. The spreading oil covered a surface not larger than that of a beach towel–it appears that technique and/or choice of oil is important. The olive oil quickly spread out in circular patterns of brilliant prismatic colors, but then dissolved from sight. Indeed, the pond itself has shrunken considerably over the intervening 230 years.)

More than 100 years later, in 1890, Lord Rayleigh, a professor of natural philosophy at the Royal Institution of London, was conducting a series of quantitative
experiments with water and oil, where he carefully measured the area to which a volume of oil would expand. This led him to calculate the thickness of the oil film. A year after publishing his work, he was contacted by a German woman named Agnes Pockels, who had done extensive experiments in oil films in her kitchen sink. She developed a device for carefully measuring the exact area of an oil film. Lord Rayleigh helped Agnes Pockels in publishing her results in scientific journals (1891–1894).

Franklin’s teaspoon of oil (assuming a density 0.9 g/mL and average fatty-acid molecular weight 280 g/mol) would contain 10þ22 fatty-acid tails. The half-acre
pond surface covered by the oil, 2000 m2, is about 2  10þ23 A ° 2. So, each tail would be expected to occupy about 20 A ° 2, assuming that a single monolayer (25 A ° calculated thickness) of oil formed on the surface of the pond.

Pfeffer in 1877 subjected plant cell suspensions to different amounts of salt and observed the cells to shrink under hypertonic conditions and swell in hypotonic conditions. He concluded there was a semipermeable membrane separating the cell interior from the external solution, an invisible (under light microscope) plasma membrane.

Overton in the 1890s at the University of Zu¨rich carried out some 10,000 experiments with more than 500 different chemical compounds [518,524]. He measured DEVELOPMENTS IN ARTIFICIAL-MEMBRANE PERMEABILITY MEASUREMENT 119 the rate of absorption of the compounds into cells. Also, he measured their olive oil–water partition coefficients, and found that lipophilic compounds readily entered the cell, whereas hydrophilic compounds did not.
This lead him to conclude that the cell membrane must be oil-like. The correlation that the greater the lipid solubility of a compound, the greater is the rate of penetration of the plasma membrane became known as Overton’s rule. Collander confirmed these observations but noted that some small hydrophilic molecules, such as urea and glycerol, could also pass into cells. This could be explained if the plasma membrane contained waterfilled pores. Collander and Ba¨rlund concluded that molecular size and lipophilicity are two important properties for membrane uptake.

Fricke measured resistance of solutions containing suspensions of red blood cells (RBCs) using a Wheatstone bridge. At low frequencies the impedance of the suspensions of RBC was very high. But at high frequencies, the impedance decreased to a low value. If cells were surrounded by a thin membrane of low dielectric material, of an effective resistance and a capacitance in parallel to the resistor, then current would flow around the cells at low frequencies, and ‘‘through’’ the cells (shunting through the capacitor) at high frequencies. Hober in 1910 evaluated the equivalent electrical circuit model and calculated the thickness of the RBC membrane to be 33 A° if the effective dielectric constant were 3 and 110 A° if the effective dielectric constant were 10.

In 1917 Langmuir, working in the laboratories of General Electric, devised improved versions of apparatus (now called the Langmuir trough) originally used by Agnes Pockels, to study properties of monolayers of amphiphilic molecules at the air–water interface. The technique allowed him to deduce the dimensions of fatty acids in the monolayer. He proposed that fatty acid molecules form a monolayer on the surface of water by orienting themselves vertically with the hydrophobic hydrocarbon chains pointing away from the water and the lipophilic carboxyl groups in contact with the water.

I guess that's enough. Just wanted to share a good story.

stolen from: ABSORPTION AND DRUG DEVELOPMENT: Solubility, Permeability, and Charge State

Curva Pericolosa

Do I need to say more?

thanks to

I've given Up on BSG

It's happened. with the last episode where they go to great length to cross a stellar cluster instead of going around it, I'm just through with it.

I'll keep a good memory of the first two series, and forget it's been continued.

I'm now going to start watching Lost, hoping that it'll be a bit better. but there's a space-opera vaccum in my heart. That is, until F Heter hamilton does publish The Dreaming Void.

Fractal Cauliflowers

Someone else seems to have noticed the wnderful beauty of cauliflowers: I do not eat them for a long lost reason in my childhood, but I Have often wondered whether to buy them just to keep them as display on my table.

Thanks to Karmen at Chaotic Utopia, a scienceblog I didn't know yet.

edit: and they're fractals on the inside, too!!!

Been away...

I've been away from blogging the whole weekend and a bit more... too much to do... wanted to polish up one more chapter of my thesis, then spend some time with my sweet half... which ended up mostly putting up furnitures for her house, and fixing a leaking shower head. Good plumber. I did train on my own two days before ;-)

Now I'm back on track, that is, at work, trying to select a deent set of molecules to perform aa evaluation of the different pKa prediction software available in house.

As an aside, it looks like my 250GB collection of movies is lost, since my usb hard drive decided to go on strike after I turned off the computer while it was performing a check on it. Bad luck.

I've re-installed the USB port now, trying to get it to recognise it again as a new thing and re-mount it from scratch. we'll see tonitgh if this works. Otherwise, i guess I'll have to find a way to format it.

It doesn't mount on linux anymore. but may be fdisk will be able to format the device nonetheless.
finger crossed. anyway, I'm going to buy a WD 500GB USB HD for 200€ in Carrefour, as soon as I can. Chissa' perche' capitano tutte a me...